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Special Project

Special Project
From the 4th Annual Shorty Social Good Awards

Boston University: Building Community on Instagram

Finalist in Instagram


Boston University (BU) is an international, comprehensive, private research university, committed to educating students to be reflective, resourceful individuals ready to live, adapt and lead in an interconnected world. BU’s social media channels reflect and promote this identity, mission and spirit. BU’s social media program must embody BU’s voice and tone: excellent, modern, dynamic, confident, socially conscious, global, diverse and inclusive. It also must feature BU’s defining attributes: celebrated thinkers, extraordinary teaching, groundbreaking research, world-class students, and Boston, the city we call home. Our goal is to develop and execute social media campaigns to help our student community feel welcomed, represented, included, engaged and #ProudtoBU. Specifically, we identified opportunities on Instagram, the preferred social network of our students, to build this community spirit and inclusive atmosphere.

Strategy and Execution

64% of 18-29 year-olds use Instagram and an informal survey of our students revealed that it is their go-to social media channel. With Instagram’s robust metrics, Stories adoption and popularity, paid advertising opportunities, and engaging platform features, we focused our content and community efforts on this key channel.To build community, we feature the people, places, events, research and scholarship that make BU special. Our voice is fun, conversational, and pithy, while still professionally representing the University. We host user-generated content, hashtags, series, student takeovers, social-specific videos, contests and highlight campus events to grow our followers, engage our audiences and build community.



In our #TerrierTuesdays series, we highlight a BU student – undergraduate, graduate or PhD – who is making waves on and off BU’s campus. In the photo caption, we tell their story: their passions, their transition to BU, the opportunities they’ve seized and their advice to others. Showcasing a diverse group of students allows viewers to picture themselves as successful BU students. We use Instagram Stories to promote the weekly posts as well, drawing the viewer in through a narrative arch with a call to action to read more in the feed.

We also run #TriviaThursday on Instagram Stories where we feature BU-related trivia to build and engage our community. Using the multiple-choice functionality, we feature BU trivia and upcoming news that our community wants to know.

Our weekly Instagram Stories series called “Hey BU” delivers BU news and information directly to students. Each week we highlight four important, student-focused stories and include a swipe up CTA for them to read more and develop a deeper relationship with the University.

#FollowFridays features a student group on campus and highlights their activities, community and opportunities.

#TerrierTown allows us to feature user-generated content, specifically beauty shots of campus.

Student Takeovers

And, what better way to highlight our students and their #ProudtoBU accomplishments then to let them take over our Instagram Stories. We work with BU students as they host takeovers to provide an inside look into their student activities, internships, study abroad experience, and more. The students also field questions about their life and experiences at BU. 

Contest and Events

We also highlight important campus moments and provide our audience a student-first perspective via contests and events. We run Instagram Stories contests like best dorm décor or best grad cap decoration to highlight the creativity of our students. We also cover live events such as the annual BU pumpkin drop hosted by our Engineering school at Halloween, SPLASH (our student activities fair), Senior Breakfast (an event for graduating seniors), Commencement and more to showcase life at BU.

Social-Specific Videos

We create “BU Journey” videos, which feature a day in a student’s life. These videos are created specifically for social media – they are under a minute, feature captions to consume content without audio, and are a square ratio to seamlessly flow into the Instagram feed. Other social videos highlight academics, student life and the great city of Boston.


Instagram enables us to promote BU’s inclusive community and show the positive impacts it is having on society. By highlighting our students' lives and accomplishments, we show how the Unviersity and its community are making the world a better place.

In Fiscal Year 2019 (July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019) , Instagram accounted for 82.2% of all our engagements on social media. Specifically, we had 857,199 engagements, 4,600 comments and an engagement rate of 4.8%. We had more than 1,800 outbound posts. Additionally, we grew our followers by 40.21% to 78,875

For Instagram Stories highlights from Fiscal Year 2019, we had 517 replies, a 307% increase from the year before. We had 9,379,523 tap forwards, a 148% increase from last year, and 688,134 tap backs, a 133% increase from last year. Lastly, we improved our Stories retention rate (viewers who watched from first slide to last) to 75.69%.

Top Engaged Instagram Posts for @BostonU:

  1. World Series in Town and the Energy in Boston Has been Electric
  2. Quintessential Boston Fall
  3. Proposal
  4. Snow
  5. Commencement


Entrant Company / Organization Name

Boston University


Entry Credits